Plan to make Gladstone family legacy a job-spinner for North-east

PLANS to turn the family estate of former Prime Minister Sir William Gladstone into a tourist and leisure venue could create 275 jobs and generate more than £1m a year for the Aberdeenshire economy, according to a feasibility study.

The £55m scheme for Fasque House – which is aimed at making the 400-acre estate financially sustainable and funding the restoration of the property – will have an “annual direct economic trading impact” of £810,000, the report suggests, with a further knock- on effect making it worth an overall £1.13m.

Under plans awaiting the green light from the local authority, the estate will gain an equestrian centre, farm shop, museum and more than 100 “eco-friendly” homes.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

John Lennon, professor and director of the Moffat Centre for Travel & Tourism Business Development at Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “In terms of job figures, the development will generate a minimum of 38 positions on site and a further 47 full-time roles within the wider community.

“During the construction phase, 190 full-time jobs will be created so the whole project will generate employment in quality mixed-use residential, leisure and tourism development initiatives.

“The Fasque House estate project would also create a quality north-east tourist hotspot that could help government targets to increase tourism numbers by 2015.”

Fasque House was built around 1810 and sold in 1829 to John Gladstone, the uncle of Sir William, who was a regular visitor to Fasque. The building, last used as a family home in the early 1930s, has 16 bedrooms, eight bathrooms and seven reception rooms and features a spectacular staircase.

The development is the brainchild of Fasque House Properties managing director Douglas Dick-Reid, who was the driving force behind the purchase of the Georgian mansion in July 2010.

He runs the property as a wedding and conference venue but says there’s a need to create additional revenue streams to support full restoration of the house. “Our aim has always been to restore Fasque House to make it available for weddings, conferences and other special occasions in keeping with the elegance of the house as intended by the people who built it,” he said.

“The initial makeover in the first few months was largely cosmetic and does not reach the root of the problems. However, financing the project is exceptionally difficult.”

Dick-Reid, who hopes to hear within weeks if his plans are approved, plans to build 102 “sympathetic” houses in keeping with the landscape.

He will also convert steading and stable blocks to create holiday lets as well as creating an equestrian centre, farm shop and museum. He expects the whole project will take between seven and ten years to complete, and says it will ensure the estate does not fall into a state of disrepair again. Gladstone served as prime minister four times during the 19th century and regularly clashed with Queen Victoria as he introduced his liberal reforms to expand voting rights and improve the legal system.